FINN HØFFDING (1899 - 1997)
Finn Høffding (1899-1997) was one of the most important figures in Danish musical life in the generation after Carl Nielsen. Throughout his long life he made a strong mark as a organizer, teacher and composer at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, where he was also principal for a short period. Inspired by Paul Hindemith’s and Fritz Jöde’s youth music movement in Germany, Høffding and the composer Jørgen Bentzon founded Københavns Folkemusikskole (the Copenhagen People’s Music School) in 1931, and was a driving force behind the establishment of a formalized academy training for aspiring music teachers (1940). As a composer Høffding spent much time and energy writing easily accessible but high-quality music for children and the young. He had trained with Knud Jeppesen and Joseph Marx (in Vienna), and like his mentor Paul Hindemith he wrote with as much sympathetic insight and enthusiasm for amateurs as for professionals. Besides a wealth of choral and chamber music works, Høffding’s output comprises three operas, four symphonies and four symphonic fantasias, the last of which, The Arsenal of Springfield for soloists, choir, organ and orchestra (1953, to a text by Longfellow) stands as his undisputed masterpiece. Høffding’s interest in Hans Christian Andersen was aroused early. As far back as 1928 the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen staged his opera The Emperor’s New Clothes, based on what is perhaps Andersen’s most popular tale. Høffding himself was a great storyteller in the Karen Blixen vein - a kindred spirit to Andersen. Without being heavy-handed programme music, many of his works draw inspiration from extramusical - literary or psychological - observations. For example, his often-played Dialogues for oboe and clarinet (1927) are a collection of brilliant studies in the possible highways and byways of conversation.
In the symphonic fantasia Evolution (1939) he expounds an innocent-sounding rhythmicized motion in thirds in the timpani, an embryonic figure which turns out to be the little snowball that can set off an orchestral avalanche.
He developed the idea further in Det er ganske vist (It Is Perfectly True, 1943) - after Hans Christian Andersen’s precise dissection of the anatomy of gossip, the story of the little feather that grows into five hens (1847).